Intrusive comic book research, literary misbehavior & pop-cultural observations.
May include nuts, personal opinions and non-academic language.

torstai 2. kesäkuuta 2016

What Are You Even Doing?

Always a good and timely question! And one I seem to ask from myself much more frequently than anyone else does.

The simple answer is: almost everything and almost all the time. I read articles, monographs, unfinished Master's theses and comics; write reports, emails, abstracts, presentations, grant applications and book proposals; sit and knit in all sorts of seminars and meetings; organize conferences, events and get-togethers; dig around in libraries, bookstores, databases and the internet for new data and theories; shuttle around the country and the world to meet other people with the same weird interests...

The two things I never seen to have time for are - you guessed it - blogging and writing the damn dissertation. (Seriously, I have a bit over a year left until the dreaded four-year mark! Yikes!)


Anyhow, I decided to finally meet the research blogging challenge I put out there a year ago. And for once in my life, I figured I'd start conventionally from the assignment number 1: Show us what you do! Today. Right now.

For me, there's only one possible answer to this: I'm between projects. I have to be - otherwise there'd be no way I could concentrate, even for a minute, on something unrelated like this.

To be more specific, I just finished two grant applications and a conference report. (No, not the one I told you about earlier. A new one.. I'm not that slow.) And now, I'm preparing to write a presentation and a dissertation article.

The presentation is going to be a general survey of how cognitive theory could advance our understanding of fictional characters. I managed to wiggle myself into a panel literary researchers from the University of Helsinki were going to propose for the international Cognitive Futures in the Humanities conference. It's taking place in Helsinki in just two weeks and I'm veeeeeery excited about it! There's going to be lots of people there whose works I've read, and the topics range from disgust and daydreaming to fictional space.

As for the article, it will be about non-human and "unnatural" comic book characters. How do we even read them, and can comics really speculate on experiences that are decidedly inhuman? I am a bit skeptical about that, actually, but I am, nevertheless, going to apply those questions to the analysis of the gorgeous The Sandman: Overture that came out as a collected volume last year. It very much pretends to have a perspective that is beyond human - there could never be an apocalypse that affects only humans - but does it, and can it, really have that? Or are human comics artists and human comics readers forever doomed to discuss nothing but human minds and worlds? (No, I have not elevated Neil Gaiman to the god-status yet, despite everything!)

So, I'm currently reviewing old pieces of thought and gathering up new bits of texts that I could use. I always find this phase both very relaxing and very stressful. One one hand, I can just chillax and see what I find and come up with - it could amount to anything! But on the other hand: what if it amounts to nothing? It's all so formless and there's still so much to do...

I like to "organize" my source material into "project piles".
On top of all that, we have a reading group meeting today. Me and a few of my colleagues have been trying to make sense of Bruno Latour's We Have Never Been Modern together. It's just like any other French theory classic: says everything without really claiming anything, coins new terms without really defining them, and so, leaves the field open for long-winded exegesis. Having read very few original texts by philosophers, I appreciate the intellectual challenge, though.

In fact, intellectual challenge was the whole idea behind the reading group. We have quite a multidisciplinary department, so we figured that, with all our varied backgrounds and knowledge, discussing classics that are relevant to a wide range of cultural research might be very enlightening. And also a good excuse to grab a glass of wine every now and then! I highly recommend it!

We started with Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto" in the winter and plan to move on to Derrida's "The Animal That Therefore I Am".

Yes. I consider myself challenged. In more ways than one,
and in many senses of the word.

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